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Warren Smith

By Published: November 30, 2004
WS: No, there's too much singularity. You see, the community is with gatherings of my generation and above, and maybe twenty years below who gather with each passing figure and embrace each other, conscious and aware of each other's well being and whereabouts. I think the younger guys, although I came out of a Depression-era situation, we grew up sharing living spaces, clothing, food, and everything else. I have a lot of things on my mind - I was married and had five daughters and other women, and jobs after jobs and all kinds of things running through my mind, and maybe I didn't do as good a job as I could have in some instances, but the most important thing still was family and helping that situation to survive. I got all my kids raised and educated; now, at this point, I can do some of the things I want to do and that I enjoy doing and not feel any sense of guilt.

AAJ: As far as your own work, what do you feel would be an ideal next setting?

WS: I would like to have my own studio in order to present not just myself, but other people who have not had an adequate opportunity to express themselves, in particular with my affinity for percussion, I would certainly try to resurrect the multiple percussion group. I have a vision of something I would call the WIS Percussion Theater, which on a periodic basis I would produce a percussionist-composer and whatever his or her desire was to express their ideas. To give them that resource, with the percussion instruments and space that I would have available, you know, and I could get grants to do this. So that's one of my ambitions, and I am actively trying to do this, rather than just wishing to do it.

AAJ: That was my next question, actually, whether the multiple percussion ensemble idea could be retained and expanded upon.

WS: Oh it is definitely something that could be expanded upon, as long as I have the strength and the mental capacity to carry it out - it's certainly been my first love for a long time, and I don't see any changing of that direction.

I would certainly mention the political climate that I see, as opposed to 'if I were king.' If I had my desires, I am very disturbed about the direction this country seems to be heading, especially under the direction of our present administration. My intent is to survive to the extent that if I see this goddamn thing teetering on the brink and I am hobbling on two crutches and you need just the strength of one finger to tip it to the shoulder of the cliff, I want to be that person. I can never say the person that I desire to be president was elected; I have always been too radical in my thinking for the candidate that I have chosen to be the one, but there have been some. I grew up with President Roosevelt, and Truman after that, I was at Eisenhower's inauguration in the marching band of the University of Illinois, and I followed Kennedy and Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Reagan and Bush and everything. I have never been this upset; I have never seen anybody that I thought was so ridiculous. This is really taking the cake.

I have traveled back and forth to Europe since 1969, Japan, everywhere, and I have never failed to find a group of people who felt and thought politically as I did, no matter what the culture was. My feeling for this man is negative and also universal among my friends.

AAJ: As far as what you're doing for your part, are you doing much in the way of setting up concerts or performances that are geared politically, or is it inherent in your work?

WS: I did a concert with Bill Cole's Untempered Ensemble this past week, and we did a piece called "Teddy Said," which was an orchestration and a vocal rendition of a speech that Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts had stated that certain things [that the administration said] were not the case, and each time they made a statement that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, he said they did not. And each time they said something, it was in the negative, so I orchestrated it as a calypso song. It worked, you know, so I hope to get it out on record shortly.

Recommended Listening:

' Warren Smith Ensemble - Composers Workshop Ensemble (Strata East, 1972)

' Sam Rivers - Crystals (Impulse!-Universal, 1974)

' Max Roach - M'Boom (Columbia-Legacy, 1979)

' Julius Hemphill/Warren Smith - Chile New York: Sound Environment (Black Saint, 1980)

' M'Boom - Live at S.O.B.'s New York (Max Roach-Blue Moon, 1992)

' Warren Smith - Cats Are Stealing My $hit (Mapleshade, 1995)

Photo Credit
Peter Gannushkin

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